There are many projects to get involved with the DFN from orbital modelling to hardware design to meteorite analysis. Projects are highly multi-disciplinary and are suitable for students with backgrounds in physics, astronomy, geophysics, geology, data science, maths and engineering.
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Analysing superbolide impacts using Earth observation satellites

The chance that one of the many Earth observation satellites capture the very instant of an asteroid impact on Earth are slim. But asteroid impacts leave dust trails that can be visible for hours. The project is about analysing evidence of superbolide dust trails left in the atmosphere by asteroid impacts, covering both visible (RGB) down to infrared wavelengths. Picture: dust trail from a superbolide over the Bering straight in 2018, imaged by the Himawari-8 weather satellite.

Background preferred: science.
Main supervisor: Dr. Hadrien Devillepoix
1 projects

Transient events classification to identify daytime fireballs

Curtin University's Desert Fireball Network has been observing large shooting stars (fireball) at night time for nearly 10 years. 4 years ago it started also recording video data during the day. It is expected that once in a while a fireball will be visible during the day, however one issue is the number of false positives present amongst the detections. The student will look at fireball camera video clips (this is data nobody has looked at before), develop methods to classify the transients that have been recorded, and possibly identify some of these rare daytime fireballs!

Background preferred: science or computing.
Main supervisor: Dr. Hadrien Devillepoix

Mission concept: cubesat fleet for triangulating meteors from orbit

This mission concept will explore how to build a space mission to detect meteors from multiple cubesats in orbit, both around the Earth and Mars. 2+ station meteor observation is routinely done on Earth from the ground, but doing this from orbit presents significant issues. The student can steer the project depending on interest, by tackling the flying in formation problem, comparing imaging payload options, or find innovative solution to do data processing in orbit (image credit: NASA).

Background preferred: physics or engineering.
Main supervisor: Dr. Hadrien Devillepoix
2 projects
For other opportunities, check out these pages: Planetary Science (SSTC), Astronomy (CIRA), or get in touch so we can chat more about your interests.

Depending on your interest, we likely have a project for you. The specific projects above may be more suited to the backgrounds listed, but we will consider applications from other backgrounds if suitable.
A round of scholarships is currently open to Australian and NZ students, until end August 2023
And we currently have one available international scholarship available at the moment.

Background on the research environment

Planetary science involves the study of solar system formation and evolution, the geology of planets and their atmospheres, asteroid impacts and dynamics. Fundamentally, it is the study of how a nebula of dust and gas can evolve to a planetary system, and generate planets capable of supporting life. It pulls together multiple fields, pure and applied, including engineering.

Curtin University has the largest planetary science research program in Australia, inclusive of the Desert Fireball Network, and is looking to expand this vibrant and diverse team with new PhD students.

The Space Science and Technology Centre has pioneered the development of large networked facilities using hardened autonomous observatories. The Desert Fireball Network (DFN) has 50 autonomous stations across Australia. It has been observing ~2.5 million km2 of Australian skies since 2015. It provides a spatial context for meteorites – we can track a rock back to where it originated in the solar system, and forward to where it lands, for recovery by a field party. The database of >1400 meteoroid orbits is larger than the combined literature dataset for >70 years of observation, providing a unique window into the distribution of debris in the inner solar system. With 14 international partners, and facilitated by NASA, the project has recently expanded to a global facility. The Global Fireball Observatory (GFO) will cover x5 the observing area of the DFN, able to track debris entering our atmosphere 24 hours a day. These networks informed the development of a satellite tracking network – FireOPAL – with Lockheed Martin. Although designed for satellite observations, FireOPAL also happens to be a world-class astronomical transient observatory. The DFN, GFO, and FireOPAL are helping us answer fundamental questions in planetary science and astronomy. If you would like to be part of this team, and work with colleagues in universities around the world, at NASA, and in industry, read on.